Joel Northrup is a Champion

Merriam Webster’s definition of CHAMPION: (1) warrior, fighter; (2) a militant advocate or defender; (3) one that does battle for another’s rights or honor; (4) a winner of first prize or first place in competition; also, one who shows marked superiority

I usually avoid discussing highly controversial current events here on Starlight Writer, but sometimes an event merits digging into for spiritual reasons.

Last week in Iowa, Joel Northrup, a high school sophomore, defaulted his first round match in the state wrestling tournament. He had been matched with freshman Cassy Herkelman, a girl, and he defaulted because of his faith. He doesn’t think boys and girls should compete against each other in the sport.

As the mother of two girls, I completely agree with Northrup. Putting high school boys and girls in this situation is entirely inappropriate, especially in a contact sport like wrestling!

I commend Northrup for doing the right thing. He did wrestle that day, though not in the flesh. Let’s not overlook the internal struggle he must have fought between doing what was honorable and biblical and doing what would possibly bring him much fame and glory in the sports world. That’s a character-building match like none other.

While Northrup forfeited the chance to advance and possibly win the state wrestling championship, he is a champion no less. He fought for another’s rights and honor that day: Cassy’s. He looked not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4) That shows marked superiority.

Two articles on this topic really appalled me. The first was Wrestling with Conviction by Rick Reilly of ESPN, who claims the 112-lb. Cassy is “as dainty as a forklift” and doesn’t need anyone to protect her because she “relishes the violence.” I argue that Cassy most certainly does need someone protecting her, especially when her own father repeatedly calls her his “son.” What a broken world.

Likewise, in Argument for Boy-Girl Wrestling, Caryn Rivadeneira suggests Northrup’s decision has  more to do with his cultural view of girls than his faith. She makes a very weak attempt to relate the boy-girl wrestling situation to how Jesus interacted with women. This piece makes me seriously question the integrity of Christianity Today’s blog for women.

Fortunately, a few other articles buoyed my own position on this issue. The primary one was this John Piper article “Over My Dead Body, Son,” which I read two years ago during a similar boy-girl wrestling scenario here in Minnesota. Albert Mohler’s article “Boys Wrestling Girls: A Clash of Worlds and Worldviews” is another worthwhile read, as is Betsy Hart’s “Men are Meant to Protect Women and Children.”

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